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Page:Littell's Living Age - Volume 134.djvu/104

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VOLTAIRE IN THE NETHERLANDS.

seemed to have other plans with her daughter, and did not wish to bestow her on "a page like Voltaire," put an end to the affair. She complained to the Marquis de Châteauneuf, who was afraid of the writer of the "Lettres Historiques," and specially of the "Mercure Galant," and who soon, by the strong measures he took, showed that he was less indulgent than his brother the abbé had been. He wrote a long letter to the father, ending, "I hope nothing more from your son now: he is twice mad; in love and a poet." Voltaire’s departure was immediately decided upon. He wrote in despair to Pimpette that all he had been able to do was to obtain a delay, but he was forbidden to leave his rooms. He complains bitterly about this arrest, and urges her to leave her unnatural mother and follow him to France. Without her portrait he cannot live, nor without her letters to assure him of her eternal love. These sentimental effusions are accompanied with the prosaic recommendation to send the shoemaker with her letters, as if he came to try on a pair of boots.

The shoemaker apparently accomplished his task, but fourteen letters written by Voltaire to Pimpette, November 1713 to February 1714, fell into the hands of Mme. Dunoyer, who, to the astonishment of everyone, disregarding the injury they did to her daughter’s reputation, published them in the "Lettres Historiques."

The letter received from Olympe called forth an answer, in which he asks her for a rendezvous to go to Scheveningen, where he proposed that they should write letters to her father and uncle, to seek for a retreat in Paris. It appears, however, that these plans did not succeed, that he was unable to leave his rooms, but that Pimpette, disguised as a boy, contrived to obtain an interview with him.

Si vous êtes adorable en cornettes [he afterwards wrote to her], ma foi, vous êtes un aimable cavalier, et notre portier, qui n'est point amoureux de vous, vous a trouvé un très-joli garçon. La première fois que vous viendrez, il vous recevra a merveille. Je crains que vous n’ayez tiré l’epée dans la rue, afin qu’il ne vous manquât plus rien d'un jeune homme; après tout, tout jeune homme que vous êtes, vous êtes sage comme une fille.

The mother discovered the meeting, and again complained to the ambassador, who now gave orders that four lackeys instead of two should watch over the prisoner. Once more Voltaire met his beloved, and we may gather from a letter he wrote her on the 10th of December 1713, that she received such a reprimand from her mother, that she had to remain ill in bed. He succeeded, however, in sending her letters, full of declarations of love and lamentations over the sad situation of the two lovers, "the one in bed, and the other a prisoner."

On Monday the 13th of December 1713, Voltaire was put in a coach with M. de M. and the ambassador’s valet Lefèvre, and proceeded to Rotterdam. There he was taken on board a yacht which lay ready to leave for Ghent. From this vessel he writes to her on the 19th of December: —

Nous avons un beau temps et un bon vent, et par-dessus cela de bon vin, de bons pâtés, de bons jambons et de bons lits. Nous ne sommes que nous deux, M. de M. et moi, dans un grand yacht; il s'occupe à écrire, à manger, à boire et à dormir, et moi à penser à vous. Je ne vous vois point, et je vous jure que je ne m'aperçois pas que je suis dans la compagnie d'un bon pâté et d'un homme d'esprit. Ma chère Pimpette me manque, mais je me flatte qu'elle ne me manquera pas toujours, puisque je ne voyage que pour vous faire voyager vous-même.

On his return to Paris, Thursday the 28th of December 1713, Voltaire found his father extremely angry. A lettre de cachet lay ready for him, a will in which he was quite disinherited was drawn up, and the only condition on which the old gentleman would hear of a reconciliation was the departure of his son for an American colony. The latter succeeded, however, in obtaining a delay, provided he would work as clerk with procureur, to which condition he for a short time submitted.

From a few letters of Voltaire to Pimpette at this time, we see that he gave himself great trouble to get her over to Paris with the help of the clergy on the condition that she should change her religion. But for this Pimpette was not at all disposed, and he soon complained of the scarcity of her letters. She speedily consoled herself by other love adventures, and afterwards married an officer in the French army, a Baron de Winterfeld, who in 1736 came to live in Paris (rue Plâtrière).

Voltaire met her again several times, and even helped her out of some money difficulties. He mentions her once more in his answer to his enemy La Beaumelle, who had violently attacked his "Siècle de Louis XIV." La Beaumelle had asserted that Cavalier, the head of the Cevennes insurgents, had been the rival of Voltaire, that they had both loved the daughter of Mme. Dunoyer, and that, "as might be